Cheltenham Postal (Mail) Services In the 19th Century

It is easy to forget how towns have been transformed in the last two hundred years. The following is taken from Volume 1 of Gloucestershire Notes and Queries, published in 1881.

Once more (as the Cheltenham Chronicle, December 19, 1876, has recorded) the officials of the Post Office seek a new abode from want of room in the old one. Nothing illustrates the marvellous growth of Cheltenham within the last hundred years more than a glance at the history of its postal arrangements.

A hundred years ago Cheltenham meant High-street, a little above and a little below the Plough; and our readers, or at least some of them, will be astonished to hear that in 1776 the dead body of a murderer was gibbeted in the Marsh, at the back of Clarence-square. Postal arrangements were of a very primitive order in those days. The London coach used to pass Frog Mill, and thence to Crickley, on its way to Gloucester. At Frog Mill passengers and letters for Cheltenham were dropped, when there were any, and thence were brought here. There was no post-office of any kind. An old woman, known to local fame, used to deliver the letters when it was convenient, or when she chose. It is amazing how this institution-for the old woman appears to have been one-was not destroyed years before she disappeared from public life. The town possessed a fashionable population, and they must have had correspondence to some extent; and it seems too much to believe that they allowed an old woman to carry their letters in her pocket for a week, because it was not convenient to her to deliver them. This ancient lady, however, disappeared at last; and the system of private post-offices was instituted. The first of these were opened in 1800, at 127, High-street. After this several were established in different parts of High-street; and if anything can throw an air of romance about a post-office, which is exceedingly doubtful, it would be the fact that one of these was kept by Mr. Entwisle, the step-father of the Duchess of St. Albans, whose story is the solitary romance Cheltenham possesses. These private post-offices multiplied and replenished Cheltenham till a regular system was introduced; and the first office worthy of the name was opened in Clarence-street, in the premises now occupied by Mr. Karn.

A change was made in April, 1842, when the office was removed to the late premises in the same street. Now, December 128, 1876, a new move is made to the Promenade, and the description of the building will show that another departure is not likely in our time. .................... The premises are of a substantial character, and well suited for the convenience of the public.